30 Women Running The Food And Drink Industry

Make way

On season one of Chef's Table, Dan Barber, the mastermind behind the famous Blue Hill at Stone Barns, noted that we live in a time when chefs have become celebrities. Between shows like the aforementioned Chef's Table and Top Chef and food crazes brought on by creations like cronuts and sushi burritos, we are as familiar with names like Dominique Ansel and David Chang and Marcus Samuelsson as we are with those of celebrities that front our favorite magazines. And while I would willingly watch the now-thrice-mentioned Chef's Table (I may be a fan) over and over again until the next new season comes out, I cannot help but reflect on the fact that there are significantly fewer women chefs with the same degree of recognition or visibility. 

It's a not-so-little-known fact that the food and liquor industries are still dominated by men. It's doubtlessly due in part to the gender bias that continues to prevail in many kitchens that there are considerably fewer April Bloomfields and Nancy Silvertons (who, by the way, gave Barber his first job—which she also quickly fired him from for his then-lack of baking skills) that dominate our screens and delight us with their presence. With this in mind, we wanted to highlight 30 incredible women who are behind some of our favorite restaurants, bottled beverages, and pastries. Some are well-known, some have started food trends (hello, poke and kombucha), and some you need to put on your radar ASAP. We love them, and we think you will too. Ahead, their stories.

Photo by Bridget Badore / Margaux

Elisa Marshall, founding partner, event planner, and baker at maman

The many passions of Elisa Marshall led her to come up with the inspirations for maman, one of New York City's most Instagrammable bakeries, currently boasting four locations. Despite growing up baking and loving food and "attached to my mom’s hip in the kitchen from a very young age," Marshall studied fashion design in school and ended up working as a buyer and merchandiser, eventually falling in love with event planning. After working a nine-to-five in fashion PR and doing wedding planning and baking on evening and weekends, she decided that she needed a job that incorporated it all. After she couldn't find one, she created her own by opening maman.

How did you manage to incorporate baking into your PR and event planning jobs?

I started interning with an amazing wedding planner in Montreal and loved that experience. While doing that, I noticed there was so much demand for amazing custom sweets, sweet tables, candy buffets, and wedding cakes; everyone would ask my opinion on suppliers, and from what I saw was out there, I knew I could do it—and better. Eventually, I started referring myself for everything! From there, I co-founded with a friend an event catering company which was very successful.

How did you come up with maman?

I was fortunate to meet Ben, my partner in life and now in business. He had a corporate and finance background—and all the talent and skills I lacked—and was passionate about the industry, and dreamed of opening a place of his own as well. The timing and pieces all aligned perfectly, as did our skills and talents.

Maman is visually very beautiful. Was that an important factor to you?

Apart from the food, the aesthetic was the most important factor to me.  I like to think that is what makes maman unique, and that there is so much detail, soul, and attention that goes into the environment as opposed to just being another coffee shop. I was noticing a huge trend in 'hipster cool' anti-brand cafes that, to me, were cold and uninviting. I wanted to create a warm environment where everything is beautiful, carefully curated, and there's LOTS of attention to details. Somewhere inviting and cozy and reminding you of home. I love details, and to me, it’s the little things that are the most special; from the details on the cups to the perfect bows tied on the sandwiches, that is what makes us unique, memorable, and unlike the others.  

What does your perfect breakfast look like?

Coffee, lots of coffee—in pretty cups, of course—followed by eggs Benedict or a delicious breakfast sandwich.

Samantha Wasser, by CHLOE.’s co-founder

Health-conscientious, plant-based-food-loving New Yorkers can't remember what they ate on a regular basis before Samantha Wasser came onto the scene. The co-founder and creative director of by CHLOE, the fast-casual, plant-based brand that turns the most serious of carnivores into veggie burger-begging converts, Wasser first joined the industry via her father's hospitality group, first opening Horchata de Neuva York and then overseeing by CHLOE's every detail when it was first opening its location in the West Village. She is the driving force behind its monolith L.A., Boston, and NYC expansions and is currently working on two additional fast-casual concepts: The Sosta, an Italian concept in partnership with chef Ali LaRaia opening this summer, and DEZ, a Middle Eastern concept with chef and tv host Eden Grinshpan. 

How did you come up with the idea for the restaurant?

When the idea was brought to us to open a vegan fast casual restaurant, I was immediately intrigued, noticing a gap in the fast-casual space for a fun and delicious vegan destination. I wanted to create something that went beyond simply offering a menu of plant-based, vegan dishes, but a destination that appealed to the preferences of millennial diners as well, offering a fast-casual option that was affordably priced with restaurant-quality service and menu items, set in a space that would be Instagram-worthy no matter what dish you ordered.  

What were you hoping your customers would get out of visiting it when you first envisioned it?

I wanted to accomplish two things: 1) I wanted to create a restaurant that I would want to dine in. A place that was fun and kitschy, that didn’t take itself too seriously, encouraging diners to join us for a meal the same way you’d meet your friends at a bar or restaurant—creating a place to gather, Instagram, work, catch up, without the pressure of a full-service experience. 2) We wanted to create a vegan restaurant that wasn’t only for vegans.  Our menu looks to dispel the misconception of stereotypical vegan food. It’s one thing to create food that is delicious for vegan diners, it’s another to create vegan food that’s delicious for all diners, and we sought to accomplish the latter. We have such an amazing collection of loyal customers and fans around the country, everything that we’ve been working toward these last few years has all been for them.

Why do you think healthy food is having such a moment right now?

I think that it’s a combination of diners wanting to know more about the food they are putting into their bodies now, with a shift toward more mindful eating. I also believe that the surge of fast-casual restaurant concepts these last few years has provided more affordable options for guests to enjoy healthier food at a price point that enables them to change their dining patterns on a day-to-day basis.

What is your favorite part about working in the industry?

Seeing a brand come to life.  When you work on an idea every day for over a year, you see it in pieces—the logo, the design, the menu, the packaging, the overall goal—and slowly it starts to come together. The night before an opening is always the best because you look at this space, this brand that you’ve worked to put together, knowing that the doors will inevitably open to serve and satisfy guests. Being there on opening day at every location to serve that first customer, and watching guests day in and day out and enjoy the food at our restaurants around the country, is the most gratifying feeling, and it never gets old.

Laëtitia Rouabah, chef at Benoit

There are very few names more easily recognizable in the world of gastronomy than that of the legendary Alain Ducasse. As the "behind every successful man, there's a woman" saying goes, though, behind Ducasse's exquisite New York restaurant Benoit, there's Laëtitia Rouabah, the chef responsible for some of the most delicious and authentic French fare in the city. And while she could stop just at that already, and still be applauded for it, she continues to push the envelope of what it means to be a chef of her caliber, constantly switching up ingredients and playing with flavors in truly unique and unexpected ways.

How did you come up with the menu items for the restaurant? 

I draw inspiration from my years of experience with Alain Ducasse and then we rework dishes based on local ingredients and what’s in season. We adapt French dishes and techniques, so there’s more of a New York sensibility. 

What do you hope that guests can get out of visiting Benoit? 

I hope guests will be transported to Paris as soon as they walk in through the revolving doors. We put a lot of emotions in our cuisine, working with locally sourced produce and changing out menu daily, in the hopes of sharing an experience and making our guests happy.

What is your favorite part about working in the industry? 

The people you meet—chefs, restaurateurs, artisans, farmers, collaborators, etc.—sharing with passionate, talented people and learning from them every day. There are so many different personalities, cuisines, styles, aesthetics, cultures in New York that there’s always something new to discover. Also providing guests with an experience that leaves them feeling happy. 

What is your favorite ingredient to work with right now? 

I’ve been spending some time with Billy Durney from Hometown Bar-B-Que for a collaborative dinner series, Le Cochon & Co, we’ll be doing at Benoit in April, so I’ve been learning about working with fire and smoking ingredients, different animals and cuts of meat specifically. While it’s not an ingredient, it’s been an incredible experience learning from such a passionate man about this “American craft,” and we’ve been having a lot of fun with it. 

What would be your requested death row/last meal? 

Now that I’m in the USA, I guess I miss home, so it would have to be a Côte de Boeuf with peppercorn sauce and French lentils.

Photo by Craig Hall

Emily Hyland, co-founder and chief operating officer of Pizza Loves Emily restaurants, EMILY and Emmy Squared.

In a pizza-obsessed place like New York, it's not easy for pie newcomers to stand out. Not if you are Emily Hyland, who burst onto the food scene in 2014 from the most unlikely of backgrounds: vinyasa, yin, and restorative yoga teacher. Her two Brooklyn, New York, eateries, where her husband Matt serves as the executive chef, have achieved celebrity status, serving some of the best pizza and burgers (yes, burgers) that you will ever have.

How did you decide to enter the food industry after being a vinyasa, yin, and restorative yoga teacher?

Matt was at a point in his career where he was ready to take the leap and try to start something of his own. It so happens that having left my career in the public school system and transitioning into the yoga world left me with a lot of freedom and space in my life and my schedule to help him pursue this opportunity, so here we are.

Were you nervous about how New Yorkers would react to the pizza you were offering?

We were incredibly nervous and commented to each other many times about how high-stakes it felt to be opening a pizza restaurant in the middle of NYC. At the end of the day, we feel like pizza is supposed to be fun, and it is a food that really resonates with us, obviously—we love it as a communal, nostalgic, happy type of meal—and with that as the basis of our sentiment, we figured it was worth a try to put forth what we have to offer. We stand behind the product we make with love, care, and thoughtfulness, and we hoped that even in a pizza-rich city, guests would recognize the sentiment behind our food, and we are blessed that they have.

What were you hoping customers would get at your restaurants that they weren’t getting at other pizza joints?

When creating EMILY, we really wanted to fashion a space that felt like an extension of our home—a place where we could serve friends delicious food and drinks like we used to love to do more informally at our apartment before the restaurant days. That feeling of being in an environment that feels truly ours—genuinely a dining room and kitchen that has an energy sweet of home and no pretense—is what we really wanted to be able to offer to guests. I guess that we wanted the food and service experience to be professional and high quality, of course, but at its heart, just really warm.

You are known for making one mean burger. What’s the secret?

Love, for short. The real answer is Matt's incredible tenacity as a chef to keep pushing boundaries with his methods and his development of sauces—I can brag about him because I am his wife. I really feel like he excels in the land of making sauces and dressings, and he spent a lot of time being really precise and attentive to the making of Emmy Sauce. The other secret is one of our founding chefs, Tim Nguyen, who is the other genius behind the base of the Emmy sauce, which goes on our chicken wings and is known at the restaurant as Nguyen sauce.

What is your favorite part about working in the industry?

The sheer and immediate sense of camaraderie and community with other chefs and restauranteurs is far and away the nicest part about working in the industry. There is this inherent respect for each other and the hard work that everyone puts into their restaurants that feels great, supportive, and so necessary, as it is not an easy industry to be in!

Erica Blumenthal and Nikki Huganir, founder of Yes Way Rosé and creators of Summer Water

After turning their love for the pink-hued wine into a full-fledged brand dedicated to all things rosé-related, writer Erica Blumenthal and designer Nikki Huganir, the duo behind brand Yes Way Rosé, teamed up with Winc digitally native winery to collaborate on Summer Water. After two rounds of the vintages selling out within weeks, Winc expanded the rosé program production from 3K to 300K in two years. To make sure lovers of rosé never run out of their holy water again, the two teamed up with Winc once more this month to launch a wine club that guarantees that you can get a supply of rosé all summer, with drops of magnum-sized bottles—accompanied by Yes Way Rosé curated items—delivered to you from Memorial to Labor Day. 

How did you team up with Winc? 

It's actually a very modern Instagram-era story! In the first year that we started our @yeswayrose account, we posted a picture of Jollie Folle rosé, a beautiful wine with a nautical label that we love. Someone tagged the winemaker, Brian Smith, and we became Instagram friends with him. We met up with Brian in New York, and he told us about Winc, the new wine company that he had recently launched, and suggested we do something together. We created some content for their site in the summer of 2014, and in May 2015, we launched the first vintage of Summer Water together. 

In your own words, what's Summer Water like?

It's a dry, crisp, beautifully pale pink rosé made in California's central coast. It's inspired by our favorites from Provence, the motherland of rosé. Our first inside joke as rosé lovers was calling it, "Summer Water," so when we were developing the wine with Winc, we knew we had to give it that name.    

Summer Water was met with a huge demand! Why do you think rosé is having such a moment right now? 

I think Summer Water has had so much success because it's a modern spin on a beautiful classic. The label and name are both super fun and catchy. There's a vibrant California boost to the wine. It all works together really well.  

What is your favorite summer water/food pairing?

Summer Water is so versatile that it pairs well with pretty much everything: pizza, niçoise salad, spicy flavors, steak, etc. We are both really into cheese though, so we love to put together a dreamy cheese plate and drink some pink vino together.  

Photo by Amy Neunsinger

Candace Nelson, founder and pastry chef of Sprinkles

If you have had an obsession with Sprinkles since first trying one of its gooey ganache chocolate creations, you have Candace Nelson to blame. In addition to launching the world's first cupcake bakery (which boasts 20-plus locations now), Nelson has been a judge on Food Network’s show Cupcake Wars, authored a cookbook The Sprinkles Baking Book, and is now she embarking on her first savory venture with the opening of Pizzana, a restaurant specializing in Neo-Neapolitan pizza located in L.A. We might need a second gym membership, or stomach, if it proves as addictive. And something tells us it will.

How did you come up with the idea for your business?

I wanted to reinvent and elevate the American cupcake, a treat that everyone loved but was still considered just kids fare. By making them beautiful and artisanal, they became the go-to treat, from after-school snacks to elegant dinner parties and everything in between.

What do you credit your success to? 

Creativity, innovation, hard work, a great team, and staying true to the philosophies that Sprinkles is based on—cupcakes and customer service. Additionally, our brand and design are very well thought-out and make our product instantly identifiable and separate us from the pack.

What can you tell me about Pizzana? Why are you venturing into savory? 

Really there is a lot of overlap between baking and pizza making because of the dough. When I met our executive chef, pizzaiolo Daniele Uditi, we spent an hour geeking out over the nuances of what makes a great cupcake or a great crust. I love his pizza, and I love building a brand and creating a simple yet elevated experience that makes people feel good.

What would be your favorite pizza-cupcake pairing? 

At risk of sounding extremely boring—well, let’s just call me a purist—a Pizzana Margherita pizza with a Sprinkles dark chocolate cupcake.

What advice would you have for women entrepreneurs who are just starting out? 

Passion is key, but there also has to be some need for your product or service. Test the market in a small way; I baked out of my house first and sensed a void in the market. Also, run some simple numbers—what sort of volume will it take for you to at least break even? Does that seem like a reasonable bar? And talk to everyone you know in a similar or the same business. Finally, ask yourself, Will you be able to live with yourself if you don’t pursue it? The answer to that question for me was no, so I knew I had to take the plunge.

Photo by Gaelen Casey

Dakota Weiss, executive chef and partner at Sweetfin Poke and Estrella

A chef with 20 years of experience, Dakota Weiss has made her way from kitchens of New Mexico and Dallas to Philadephia and Califonia. She's now serving up our favorite food craze of 2016—poke, duh—running the kitchen at music-inspired Estrella, and running her side project Dakota's Pop Parlor.

How did you come up with the idea for the restaurants?

Partner Alan Nathan and I wanted to give Estrella a musical-like background to it, considering where the location is [West Hollywood, California]. Once we partnered up with Brett Nestadt, we came up with the Laurel Canyon '60s folk/rock/boho chic vibe. As far as Sweetfin goes, I was approached by Alan about it. Of course, I said yes! It was early 2013, and there had only been about three poke shops at that time and we knew right off that we wanted ours to stick out and have a chef-driven menu.

Poke is having a huge moment right now. How do you explain that?

I feel like poke is an easier and more affordable approach to raw fish.  It's a healthy and customizable dish that the general public can relate to.  It's a dish for longtime foodies and those who are just getting into eating raw fish. It also contains all of those umami notes that make it stand out and really make you crave it on a daily basis.

How did you develop an interest in poke?

I have been eating poke for several years, mainly when I started working at the Marina Del Rey Ritz-Carlton.  We made daily changing bento boxes, and poke was a great way to use odds and ends of other fish specials we would run.  I fell in love with it at first bite.

What do you love best about working in this industry? 

Having a creative voice that is constantly changing. I am able to use any and all ingredients and make people smile and feel good about themselves using food. The taste of food can bring back loving memories and also create new ones. Also, I can look the way I look; I don't have to dress a certain way. Kitchens are very tight-knit and they are your family. I love that I am so connected with my crew. We truly do treat each other like family.

Sara Leveen, owner of Hanoi House

Owner of one of the most happening Vietnamese restaurants in New York City (just a few weeks ago, it was named by New York magazine the Best Vietnamese Restaurant), Sara Leveen has spent 15 years working at Stephen Starr’s Buddakan as they grew and expanded to New York, South Florida, and Washington D.C. After holding various management positions, including General Manager of Buddakan NY and Director of Restaurant Openings for Starr Restaurant, she took a leap two months ago when she opened Hanoi House with chef John Nguyen. Don't be surprised when Hanoi House similarly expands at the speech of light under her magic touch.

How did you come up with the concept for the restaurant?

My fiancé, Ben, and I traveled to Southeast Asia in 2013 and returned knowing that we had to either move to a beach in Thailand to open an American cafe or bring some of what we experienced in Thailand and Vietnam back to New York. Our original concept had a broader approach to the region’s cuisine; however once we revisited Vietnam and found the restaurant space on St. Mark's in the East Village, it was obvious that we needed to pinpoint the magic of Hanoi.

What were you hoping your customers would get out of visiting it when you first envisioned it?

We wanted them to be transported and to have the aha moment of “Vietnamese food is so interesting and delicious and wholesome!” Also, most Vietnamese restaurants in the U.S. serve Southern Vietnamese food; we wanted to pay homage to the cuisine of Hanoi in the North and to give them something they couldn’t find anywhere else in New York. 

What is your favorite dish on the menu?

I crave the pho and eat it five times per week. It’s the dish by which we are constantly judged, and I’m damn proud of it! The Bun Cha is a very close second. Followed by the papaya salad with crispy pig ear. Oh, and the Clams and Congee. 

What is your favorite part about working in the industry overall?

There is simply no greater joy than a good meal. Making that happen for people is so cool! But the really soul-satisfying part of running a restaurant in New York is that we have really, really good people working for us from a dozen of different backgrounds. People that I’m so proud of to have on our team… honest, kind, happy people willing to work their tails off to make our business successful. Ben and I are so grateful for them.

Lacy Hawkins, national brand ambassador at Monkey 47

While there is a dime a dozen of liquor ambassadors, what stands apart about Lacy Hawkins is her genuine love for gin, the spirit, and Monkey 47 gin, the brand with historic German beginnings that is now beginning to rapidly expand in the U.S. (it already achieved a cult-like status in Europe). As the only woman bouncer at a nightclub in Portland, Oregon, a decade ago, she was known as "The Cooler"—the voice of reason when things started to heat up. As she soothingly tells you tales of gin cocktails that left an impact on her, pausing mid-sentence to savor in her memories, you can tell why. From nightclub doors, she transitioned behind the bar, with past gigs including The Nomad and Clover Club. This May, she won Speed Rack's cocktail competition (more on that below) and shortly after joined the Monkey 47 team.

What drew you to join Monkey 47?

Monkey 47 gin is made with so much integrity and attention to detail. There are more spirits on the market today than we've ever seen in the past, but that doesn't mean that all of them are created equal. I've gotten to see firsthand the process for making Monkey 47 gin, and the creation method of this caliber is directly reflected in the character and taste of the spirit. There is an initial burst of citrus, followed by a long floral note with lots of red lingonberry tones. After that are these beautiful spicy flavors that are indicative of the time that Montgomery Collins, the original inspiration for Monkey 47, spent in India—lots of ginger, black pepper, and cinnamon. Then it opens up to these wonderful Black Forest notes of spruce tips, juniper, sage, and pine. Monkey 47 is the epitome of East meets West in a bottle. There is inspiration from the spices and ingredients in India while staying true to the foundation of a London Dry style of gin. When talking about spirits and how they've gone from seed to bottle, there is always a fair bit of romance. However, with Monkey 47, it's more than that. The romance is the history and how the founder is bringing it to life.

What makes the gin so unique?

Most gins are made with anywhere from three to 15 ingredients, and they're most commonly distilled with some sort of grain-based alcohol. Monkey 47 uses 47 different herbs, botanicals, and spices and we use a molasses and sugar beet distillate. Most gins will give you a single note from each of their ingredients, but with Monkey 47, it's more like conducting a symphony. Because Monkey 47 uses very small [100-liter] stills, there is a lot of copper contact in the process, creating a rich mouthfeel and an ebb and flow with the influences from each ingredient. This is a gin that can hold up to a vermouth-heavy Gibson martini or carry all the qualities of a well-mixed cocktail in just a gin and tonic.

You are a lover of gin. Why?

I believe that gin is timeless and appropriate for every occasion. I could drink gin on a beach with a fun straw and paper umbrella in my glass or with my in-laws on a cold snowy night in Brooklyn. There is nothing quite as classic, elegant, and satisfying as a Negroni or as simple and quenching as a gin and club soda. Gin carries the notes of every other spirit, and through cocktails, you can really turn the volume up or down on some of those flavors.

What is your favorite memory associated with a cocktail?

It's the first gin cocktail I had, and it remains one of my favorite gin cocktails today. It was The Bee's Knees: gin, lemon, and honey syrup. I was so blown away by how three simple ingredients could create something so profoundly delicious. It was the first time I had gin in a proper cocktail and realized how much I loved the spirit. I've grown up as a beekeeper, so to taste something so delicious with gin and honey was a very special moment for me. Needless to say, even a decade later, The Bee's Knee's is still one of my go-to cocktails.

Photo by Raquel Salazar

Melia Marden, chef and partner at The Smile and Smile To Go

The woman behind one of New York City's most popular breakfast and brunch institutions—there is never not a wait on weekends—Melia Marden (the youngest daughter of art power couple Brice and Helen Marden), in a surprising turn of events, began her career at a magazine. She eventually left to attend the French Culinary Institute, and good thing! Since Marden came on as the executive chef and partner at The Smile, where she was brought on by Carlos Quirarte and Matt Kliegman, she has helped helm three additional restaurant spinoffs, published a cookbook, and put out some of our favorite breakfast dishes ever.

How did you come up with the menu for the restaurant?

I wanted the food not to feel “restaurant-y” but more like a really good fresh home-cooked meal. A lot of my cooking is inspired by the food my mom made when I was growing up which in turn was inspired by her travels in Greece, Morocco, and Italy.

What do you hope that customers can get out of visiting your restaurant?

I think the atmosphere is as important as food because they won’t enjoy what they’re eating if they don’t feel at home in the space. I want them to come away feeling like they’ve been taken care of for the time they’ve been with us.

What is your favorite part about working in the industry?

I like that we are constantly changing and growing and trying to improve. I like that we see the result of our work so immediately—it's very satisfying to watch people enjoy their meal and have regulars coming back because our food has become a part of their life.  

What is your favorite ingredient to work with right now?

I’m really into bitter greens right now. I’ve been developing recipes with chicory and spigarello, which is a beautiful curly green in the broccoli family—like a cross between kale and broccoli leaves. I tend to like a lot of sweetness in my savory food, so I’m enjoying working outside of my comfort zone. I think the secret is having lots of tangy acid to offset the bitterness.

Photo by Health-Ade

Daina Trout co-founder Health-Ade Kombucha

In 2012, fermented food lover who has been making kombucha and sharing it with friends since 2005, Daina Trout—alongside her now-husband Justin and best friend Vanessa Dew—launched Health-Ade Kombucha. Little did they know that the beverage would soon explode in the mainstream, taking Trait's business from being made at her apartment and sold at local farmer's markets to being shelved at more than 6,000 stores and restaurants.

Tell me about the beginnings of Health-Ade? 

After working in corporate America for five years, I felt the itch to do something bigger and more meaningful. After forming an entrepreneur club with Justin and Vanessa Dew—who were both feeling unfulfilled too—we thought hard, while sipping on my kombucha, on what this cheap—we only had about $600—and BIG idea could be. Eventually, we realized the kombucha we were drinking was the best we ever had—and that we could make the business happen with very little overhead to start. We called it Health-Ade, scotch-taped on some labels, and showed up March 26, 2012, at the Brentwood Farmers' market. We sold six cases in under an hour and never looked back. Our tiny L.A. apartment became a full-on brewery, our Honda Civic "delivery vehicle” doubled as our office space, and we worked until we couldn’t stand up seven days a week to meet the demand for our kombucha.

Why is Kombucha having such a moment right now? 

There has been a decline in sugary soft drinks for the last 10 years, and people are looking for substitutes that taste good and make them feel good. This concept of “functionality” in food is nothing new, though—I’d say our ancestors were well aware of the role real food could play in our health. Kombucha is special because it’s bubbly like soda, way lower in sugar, and tastes amazing. Mostly, people come back because it makes you feel good. Especially real kombucha. It’s in its element for sure, but I think it’s here to stay.

What has been the most surreal moment of your experience so far? 

This is the hardest question to answer because there are so many milestones. I remember most right now the first time we received investment—it was 2014. We were living off next-to-nothing, and everything we owned and had was given to our business. Our credit cards were maxed out, and we were borrowing money from friends and family to eat and sleep. It was very tough. And then we met an awesome investor and soon after a couple million arrived in our bank account. That was crazy. We kept refreshing the screen to make sure our eyes weren’t fooling us. We felt like we had to celebrate (even though we had just worked 14 hours in the brewery), so we went out for cheap Chinese and BYOB. It took us a while to believe we actually could start paying ourselves. 

What advice would you have for entrepreneurs who are just starting out in their kitchens? 

I have two pieces of advice that I always give. The first especially applies to women: (1) Just do it—credit to Nike, of course. There are so many people I meet who have a great idea but can’t get started because they’re so stuck on getting it right or the timing perfect. Or they’re afraid of the risk. Especially women because—let’s face it—we can be perfectionists! I see those people three years later, and they’re still stuck. Forget about perfect. Just start. There will always be a risk; that’s the price every successful entrepreneur has paid. You will figure it out. Don’t. Get. Stuck. (2) Follow your gut! This is our tagline, yes, but it’s also our most important business practice. I never had any schooling in business. No one is telling me what to do, or telling me this will all be okay. In the end, the more you can tap into what your best instincts are telling you to do, the quicker you will be at making decisions. Once you believe you have a good head on your shoulders, the right solutions will come.

Erica Abell, executive chef at Boneyard Bistro

Since her days as a line cook at the barbecue-focused California kitchen, Erica Abell has proven herself in an industry previously thought to be "a man's area of expertise" (even in non-restaurant setting), first earning a promotion to chef de cuisine after six years and now to executive chef this past January. In this position, she continues to maintain and evolve the Southern- and West Coast-style barbecue menu with a diverse variety of meats and poultry, something that she's already getting noticed for.

What is your favorite part about working with barbecue?

Our guests! I believe most people associate barbecue with family and comfort. We have a bunch of people who come in a few times a week, and it just makes you feel loved. Also, I get to be around a campfire without having to sleep in a tent.

What’s the difference between Southern and West Coast barbecue? 

Southern barbecue is when you use an enclosed pit or smoker to cook meats low and slow. West Coast barbecue deals more with an open flame on a grill. We use a Santa Maria style grill for our trip-tips and beef ribs at Boneyard. 

What’s your favorite ingredient to work with right now? 

My favorite ingredient to work with right now is rum. Every three months, we do a three-course chef's tasting menu at Boneyard, and for that, we are going to be focusing the menu on rum with a Tiki-inspired vibe. 

What your favorite dry rub? 

When in doubt, I think a good dry rub should be pretty simple: Course ground black pepper, kosher salt, lots of granulated garlic, and onions with a touch of paprika. 

What would be your requested last meal? 

Since I am lactose-intolerant, I would go for a three-course meal that consisted of a lot of cheese! The little Don Lorenzo sandwich from Bay Cities Deli in Santa Monica, the "lots of meat" deep dish pizza from Masa in Echo Park, and for dessert, a rocket shake from Swingers in Hollywood.

Photo by Emily Hart Roth

Nina Clemente, chef and partner of The Smile’s di Alba

Born in Italy and bred in New York City—the best of the food world—Nina Clemente made her way to the West Coast after graduating from Brown University with a degree in anthropology. She ran a successful catering business before taking the restaurant plunge with gigs at the Curious Palate and then Osteria Mozza where she honed her skills and talent. Now at the helm of her own kitchen at the popular, communally-minded The Smile’s di Alba (yes, it's part of the aforementioned Smile), Clemente delights her diners with variations of focaccia reminiscent of the one she had in childhood and seasonal and market-driven plates that are a reflection of her culinary heritage and California's best offerings. 

How did you come up with the menu for the restaurant?

The restaurant was a collaboration with Matt Kliegman, Carlos Quirarte, and Melia Marden and infused my childhood memories of focacceria in Italy. Growing up, I couldn’t get enough of the food my mom and family used to make—prepared simply and with the freshest and most seasonal produce. I wanted to bring that approach to di Alba and create a place for people to enjoy vibrant and nourishing fare that looks beautiful and tastes amazing.

What do you hope that customers can get out of visiting your restaurant?

A flavorful and substantial meal that they can enjoy multiple times a week. I want The Smile’s di Alba to be the kind of place that people crave on the daily and can consume all the time. We want to make feel-good power food in our beautiful and transportive little nook in the Arts District.

What is your favorite part about working in the industry?

I love collaborating with other cooks, there is always something new to learn. The craft of cooking is limitless when it comes to education.

What is your favorite ingredient to work with right now?

Fresh English peas. I can’t get enough of them, and they are the first thing I look for at the farmer's market in the spring. They are a labor of love because you have to put some serious work into getting them prepped. But they are so flavorful and bright and versatile. 

What would be your requested last meal?

My mom's spaghetti alla puttanesca, with a side of wild arugula from our garden in Amalfi, doused with lemon juice also from the garden, extra virgin olive oil, and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano. 

Pauline Lhote, winemaker at Chandon

If the occupation of winemaker for you brings to mind men in flannel shirts with sleeves rolled halfway picking grapes, you would never guess the profession of French-bred Pauline Lhote. So edgy and stylish does she look in her leather jacket as she cheers Rebecca Minkoff to the designer's collaboration with Chandon at the party last year. Having grown up in Champagne (yes, that Champagne in France), she has always known she had wanted to be a winemaker. After getting her winemaking from a school in Reims, she spent time at Dom Perignon and Nicolas Feuillate, before falling in love with Napa Valley and Domaine Chandon, the first French-owned sparkling wine house in California.

When did you know that you wanted to be a winemaker?

Growing up in Champagne, I have known I wanted to be a winemaker since age 14. During my first internships in Champagne, I worked in the vineyards and also in the cellar during harvest, which really confirmed my love for this job. It is hard work but the smell of the cellar during that time is incredible.

What does your day-to-day look as a winemaker?

The good thing about my job is that there is no regular day-to-day. My job is very seasonal. During harvest, my day is spent between vineyards visits to call the pick and back to the winery to follow the operations. During that time, it is very busy as there is a lot to be done: scheduling grapes, pressing, juice clarification, follow the fermentations, etc. My job also involves, of course, a lot of tastings; during the blending season, I am tasting and blending wines for most of the day. Part is my job is also to talk about the wines I make, host people at the winery, travel... so not bad!

What is your favorite part of the job?

Its diversity and the association of the science with art. But most of all, I love it because I get to make people happy when they open a bottle of Chandon!

What is favorite food-wine pairing?

The great thing about the wines we make at Chandon is that they pair with most everything. My personal favorite is our Chandon Rose with sushi or burger… cannot decide between the two!

Photo by Richard Ramirez Jr.

Natasha James, founder of Rawcells

The creator of Rawcells, an organic and often raw vegan treat business on the come-up, Natasha James has been on our radar since last year—and for good reason! The young entrepreneur, who has started the bake shop on the go after not finding enough treat options she liked, has since partnered with FoodWorks, "culinary incubators" that help bring together a community of mentors and advisers to help catapult food brands and businesses into more visibility in the world, to bring her already successful enterprise to the next level. And it's sure heading there with delicious and nutritious snacks, that mask as comfort junk food, that are bound to make you forget about that little ingredient—what's it called?—butter.

Tell me about your business?

Rawcells is an organic vegan company that creates treats that nourish our bodies on a cellular level. We sell out of our five tricycles and offer shipping and catering. We focus on junk food desserts such as cookies, brownies, snickers. All of our treats are designed to help penetrate the cell membrane for optimal digestion. Most nutrients get lost in the small intestines, but our product has oils and salts that help with nutrient absorption. 

Why did you launch Rawcells?

I wanted to create a product that even those with diabetes and cancer and anti-vegans can enjoy. Once knowing all that the corporate junk food industry is putting in their products, and how it's destroying our bodies and our planet, I knew I couldn't sit back and watch it happen without doing something about it. It inspired me to help inspire others to change for the better. Also, I believe it's easier to help someone eat vegan with a doughnut, rather than a salad. 

How did you get involved with FoodWorks?

Nick Devane, CEO at FoodWorks, and I connected through Instagram and began to figure out how we could collaborate in future projects. 

What's the best piece of advice have you gotten since working with them?

Their tagline says it all: "Hard work pays off"! Also that by cultivating communities is where the real magic and success happens.

Why is it so difficult to find vegan/raw desserts that taste good?

Because with most raw vegan desserts the texture is all off. It's typically pretty mushy, too grainy, and tastes like upscale bird food. 

Jessica Koslow, owner of Squirl and author of Everything I Want to Eat: Squirl and the New California Cooking

There's no name more synonymous with the new direction of California's cuisine than Jessica Koslow. Having grown up in Southern California, she started as a competitive figure skater and was even on the U.S. team for four years. After grad school, she moved to Atlanta and begged her way into Bacchanalia, a restaurant that, according to Koslow herself, changed her life. It is there that she developed her love for preserving, a technique that would make her L.A. restaurant, Squirl, one of the most popular food destinations in the city. Her jams, which boast mouthwatering flavors like raspberry and cardamom and blackberry and lemon verbena, are downright addictive (good thing, there's a jam club to keep it under control) and her brunch dishes are talked about in whisper, lest they attract an even bigger crowd than the one that assembles outside Squirl's doors every weekend.

How did you come up with the idea for Squirl?

When I was a pastry chef in the South, we were preserving truly to save the season. When I returned to Los Angeles, I was fascinated by all the varieties of produce—and the unlimited supply, so it seemed—that grew all year long. Sqirl, which is the marriage of a Girl Squirreling Away, stemmed from that. A year after starting Sqirl as a jam company, in a natural progression, it evolved into a breakfast and lunch restaurant.

What were you hoping your customers would get out of visiting it when you first envisioned it?

In 2012, when Sqirl opened, there was not one chef-driven breakfast and lunch place in L.A. In Silverlake, people would go to Intelligentsia, a coffee shop, for their morning cup of Joe and a croissant for community conversation. I was hoping that Sqirl would offer that great coffee and sense of community, but also a start to the day through food that was not fussy or overly complicated, but indeed unique and technically driven. It was a gamble.

You are known for serving some of the best breakfast in California. What's your secret?

I start with flavors I’m craving, and I build dishes that say family but, at the same time, are totally new. I’m not afraid to take dishes off the menu that are popular if I think we have developed a better, more unique dish. I guess, just staying true to the palate of Sqirl!

Why do you think market-driven cuisine is so important?

It can add flavor and nuance to a dish and inspire customers to explore and champion for produce they never knew about. Restaurants have the power to send a message about farming, about the environment, about the relationship to the land, through the food used. 

You've created a huge fan following with your jams. How do you explain that success?

Our relationships with our farmers have provided us with some of the most unique produce in America. So it starts with phenomenal fruit. Then, we still make everything at the restaurant… 35,000 jars a year, in small, copper jam pans. It’s the attention to every detail, I hope, that people taste.

AdrinAdrina and Elliott Coon, co-founders of GEM&BOLT

The two founders of GEM&BOLT, ArinAdrina and Elliott Coon have redefined the mezcal game as recently as last year with the introduction of their damiana-infused spirit. Both artists, first and foremost, having created numerous art shows and installations, their brand distinctly speaks to their edgy aesthetic (just look to the visually graphic bottling for proof) and attracts the likes of consumers who want their mezcal anything but run-of-the-mill.

How did you come up with Gem&Bolt?

After years of collaboration, we formed an artist duo, calling ourselves GEM&BOLT. As an artist duo, we wanted to create a commercial venture—a culmination of our varied interests in art, plant knowledge, and wild expansive lifestyle choices and modalities. We had a GEM&BOLT speakeasy in Oakland, California, and had also created an artist residency in Tulum, Mexico, simultaneously. Mezcal appeared to us through these various channels, and we saw it was the perfect vehicle through which to promote a clean, celebratory lifestyle and also to communicate a larger vision around conscious celebration. We like to call it, artful evolution.

Tell me about damiana and why you use it?

Damiana is a flowering bush native to Mexico. Throughout history, the Aztec, Aaya, and Aapotec have used damiana for its mythological properties. It’s a super herb known for restoring health & vigor… and its value in the bedroom is also legendary. We call it a heart opener. There’s really no way I’ve found to describe it, but I believe the experience speaks for itself.

The liquor industry is still very male-dominated. How have you overcome that?

Yes, we are a predominantly female-run company, which is very unifying and exciting in this industry. We have built an incredible team of visionaries and industry experts that help us integrate our creative tendencies amidst the old guard. It’s a powerful combination. There are always creative solutions to any conundrum, and we thrive in the realm of creative challenge. Of course, in any industry, there are infinite hurdles and difficulties. We’ve approached the liquor industry with the same tenacity as we would anywhere else: head-on and with genuine, open-minded curiosity. As many people as have been resistant, there have been twice as many people eager to welcome new perspective and approaches.

What's the cocktail you make to impress? 

First trick when we’re hosting, we always make an extra-strong damiana tincture which we use as a bitter and to add a beautiful kick to almost any cocktail. We recently did a collaboration with Katoi restaurant of Detroit, just nominated for James Beard Best New restaurant of the Year award. It was the first time we did cocktails designed within the Asian flavor spectrum, and the combination was to-die-for. This cocktail, designed by in-house-mixologist Drew Pompa, was phenomenal, and we recommend it to impress:


1.5oz Gem&Bolt Mezcal

1oz Coconut Milk Syrup

.75oz Fresh Pineapple Juice

.5oz Lemon Juice

1/4 Thai Chil

2 Diced Banana Hi-Chews

Add all contents to a tin shaker, add ice, shake, and double strain into a coupe. Garnish with a pineapple slice to make it prettier

What's the best piece of advice you've gotten? 

Be patient, trust your intuition, and stand your ground. We’ve practiced these three from day one; it's not always easy, but they have proven the most useful and timeless tools in the arsenal.

Michelle Gauthier, founder and CEO of Mulberry & Vine

If you live in New York, you are probably familiar with Michelle Gauthier's burgeoning clean eating Mulberry & Vine outposts. Serving up some of our favorite health-consciousness lunch combos, Gauthier came to open the three locations after owning a women's clothing store in New Orleans and a furniture store in West Village, with cooking school thrown "some in between." At the rate of success that her eateries have had in the past few years, we expect the demand for more locations to only grow.

How did you come up with Mulberry & Vine?

We came up with the idea about six years ago—when Whole Foods was your best option for something healthy, other than your usual salad place. All I wanted was healthy, tasty food with great ingredients… and I didn’t want to spend two hours in a restaurant to get it, especially during lunch. I was tired of cooking for myself all the time and figured there had to be other people out there who felt the same way.

Why do you think healthy food is having such a moment right now? 

Here’s the thing: Once you eat clean and healthy, you can’t go back. I don’t think there’s a healthy food movement—it’s a total lifestyle shift. People are living longer now, and they want to feel good! What you eat directly affects that, and I think more and more consumers are understanding that now. 

What is your favorite part about working in the industry? 

I get to be around awesome people every day: my staff and my customers. 

What's your one unhealthy food vice? 

I deny myself nothing, and I’m a big believer in balance. I eat most of my meals here at Mulberry & Vine, so when I go off the rails, I do it guilt-free. If I had to pick one, hands down, it would be a fried shrimp po’boy from Domilise’s in my hometown of New Orleans. I get a large [size], and I eat every bite of it.

Ivy Mix and Lynnette Marrero, co-founders of Speed Rack

With a last name like that, Ivy Mix was destined for a career in the spirits industry. Alongside fellow bartender and industry ambassador Lynnette Marrero, she co-founded Speed Rack, the only nationwide bartending competition designed to highlight up-and-coming women in the cocktail industry, in 2011. Created out of a desire to shine a spotlight on women mixologists thriving behind bars around the country in a male-dominated field, the power duo uses part of the proceeds from the competition to also give back to breast cancer research, education, and prevention—so far more than $500,000 in six years.

Why do you think it’s important to shine a spotlight on women mixologists?

Lynnette Marrero: I think it is always good to shed light on any group that is traditionally marginalized. The best thing about Speed Rack is we started this as a platform to raise women up, and the industry and community have embraced the women and the concept in greater ways than we could possibly have dreamed.

Ivy Mix: We created Speed Rack because the image of a mixologist was frequently of a mustachioed man with a cap and vest on, and women weren't part of that image. We created it to say, "Here I am! Hiding behind this guy with the beard and the man bun! Give me a job!" Women needed this platform to stand on and be seen. We were always here, but it's like no one knew.

Why do you think it’s also important to give back to causes?

LM: We are so fortunate to have a job that is highly valued in the fundraising space. So many charity events have a beverage component. We actually found one of the largest organizations we contribute to [SHARE] via a charity event, where women chefs and bartenders create a tasting event for their gala. In so many ways it is important to give back.

IM: People drink, and they pay to drink. Brands also host events, and people go to them for free. We wanted to combine the two and make all of our proceeds go to charity. If it's possible, why wouldn't we do it? It's not hard to raise money for a cause; more people should do it.

What’s your favorite part about Speed Rack?

LM: Meeting all of the incredible ladies. We just recently launched in Asia, and we are building an incredible global community. They all become friends and become each other’s network.

IM: I have the awesome opportunity to travel the world and see some of the most amazing bartenders demonstrate how excellent they are at their craft. It has made me a better bartender, and that is priceless.

Why is it important for women to look out for each other in the industry in the real world as opposed to compete?

LM: The best thing is our ladies compete against each other but they are completely supportive of each other as well. It is important to use your success to raise up others and to give them opportunities. The more women we encourage to be at the top the game, the more diversity naturally will also occur, and THAT is true success for any industry—to have various voices to help it be the most successful.

IM: Speed Rack is a competition, but really we are more of a network. For lack of a better word, Speed Rack is like a sorority. We wanted to create a network of women across the world, so we can lean on each other within this industry. 

What are your favorite cocktails?

LM: Negroni, Martini grandma style, and Bamboo.

IM: I usually drink Negronis–love them. I also love the Bensonhurst, and always a daiquiri.

Kristen Essig, chef and partner at Coquette

In a city as food famous as New Orleans, it can be difficult for rising chefs to get noticed no matter their talent. After making her mark in the impressive kitchens of both Meauxbar and Cavan, Kristin Essig joined co-chef and co-owner, Michael Stoltzfus, at Coquette in just 2016, where she is continuing to prove to be a force of culinary proportions with dishes that are never not evolving or surprising.

How would you describe the menu at Coquette? 

It is a mix of dishes that are inspired by Louisiana and the South as a whole, the products that we source from our farmers, fishers, and foragers of Louisiana, and the people who work in our kitchen. We work very hard to allow our chef de cuisine, Cesar Nunez, and our sous chef, Phil Cenac, to inspire and influence the content of the menu. To say that we are the only ones responsible for the menu would be disingenuous. It is truly a team effort that is put into daily practice by a talented team of cooks and front-of-house staff, and we are a restaurant that works as a whole, not just in pieces. 

What do you hope that customers can get out of visiting your restaurant? 

Hospitality is the main goal of Coquette every day. We are in the business of taking care of our guests to the best of our abilities. It's not just about the food; it's also about how they are welcomed in, how they are cared for, and how their celebrations become our celebrations. Of course, we hope that our guests love their meal, but we also want them to enjoy themselves, to be comfortable, to be treated as family, and to leave feeling well-fed and cared for. 

What is your favorite part about working in the industry? 

The camaraderie that we share with our Coquette team and the network of producers, chefs, and restauranteurs of New Orleans as a whole. It's an amazing opportunity to be able to reach out to friends, to bounce ideas off of each other, and to share the experience of taking care of guests and each other. Chefs in New Orleans take great care of each other—we are a lucky bunch. Within our own restaurant, I love watching young cooks grow and be inspired by their daily tasks. We consider ourselves responsible for incubating and encouraging young talent, and we want our cooks to go on and be the best, whether that is in their own kitchen or that of another chef. Teamwork makes the dream work! 

What is your favorite ingredient to work with right now? 

I'm a huge fan of citrus in all forms. We are just now coming to the end of our citrus season here in New Orleans, and I will miss our satsumas, Meyer lemons, navels, Louisiana sweets, grapefruits... Citrus is such an important element of so much of my food and of our food at Coquette. Citrus has the opportunity to be the star, the supporting flavor, to lift other ingredients up, to round out a rich dish, and to lend acidity or sweetness. It is truly versatile, affordable and seasonal —you can use the rind, the juice, the whole thing! 

What would be your requested last meal? 

I worked as a private chef for years, and one family drastically shaped how I cook. They had a family meal that they shared with me on my nights off, and it was delicious! Fried chicken drummettes, rice and gravy, and green beans with egg sauce. I can taste it now.

Photo by Logan White

Clara Polito, owner of Clara Cakes and author of Clara Cakes: Delicious and Simple Vegan Desserts for Everyone!

The youngest on this list, at just 20 years old, Clara Polito is a vegan baking phenomenon who already has her own catering and baking company and a just-released debut cookbook. Shortly after becoming vegan at the age of 12, Polito discovered her love for baking. She would rush home after school to test out new recipes, soon after selling her goods at different venues in Los Angeles. While her intent has never been to start a business per se, her motivation has always been to prove that vegan food can be as, if not more, delicious than "normal" food.

Why can it be sometimes hard to come by tasty vegan goods? 

I think a lot of businesses, especially non-vegan eateries, make a vegan menu item just to have it. They're not necessarily trying to prepare something as satisfying as their other options. I also think it really depends on where you’re located. For example, I grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, and it was definitely harder to find options out there rather than in the city proper. 

How did your book come about? 

I've collected recipes over the years, mainly because my mom would be like, "Clara, write that down!” I've always loved writing and keeping track of memories, but I never pursued a book in full force until my publisher approached me. It seemed like a perfect fit, and from there we went for it. Now that it is out in the world, it has been so exciting, powerful and meaningful to see people share about how they’ve created my recipes at home or tried baking or even vegan treats for the first time. 

What’s your foolproof, quick recipe for when someone is suddenly coming over? 

Definitely my chocolate chip cookie recipe! You can't beat a fresh, warm batch of cookies. I can't think of anything more welcoming. Plus, it is the kind of treat that is so easy to customize for whoever is coming over… you can add walnuts, dried fruit, potato chips, all that good stuff. 

What is your favorite part about doing what you do? 

It's hard to say just one because I love so many things about it! I love the endless possibilities of different cooking and baking avenues that can be explored. When I'm given an opportunity to host a pop-up, it's the absolute best because it gives me an opportunity to execute my new ideas in a new space beyond my kitchen.

Rachael Polhill, executive chef at Dante

It is well-known that if you want to have a good Negroni in New York City, you head to Greenwich Village's Dante. And to make that Negroni even more memorable, you accompany it with extraordinary food from Dante's Rachael Polhill. An Australian expat who has made her way from her rural hometown in New South Wales to Sydney and now settled New York (for good, our selfish foodie-loving hearts hope), with culinary pit stops in East Asia and Europe in between—Polhill has incorporated her worldly experiences into one deliciously Italian tasting experience. Borrowing from classic favorites, she continues to add a fresh spin to the beloved comfort cuisine with ever-evolving ingredients and new techniques.

How do you come up with the menu for the Dante?

I take inspiration from the Italian history of Dante and use that as a starting point for the menu. Being trained in Australian kitchens also filters the way I would interpret classic dishes from other cultures. My personal preference is to produce dishes with bold clean flavors, combining this with ingredients that evoke positive food memories. For me, the ideal is when the dishes are crave-able yet not overwhelming.

Training in Australia and being less bounded by tradition has allowed me to absorb techniques and cuisines, and I combine them to create unique dishes at Dante. For example, the inspiration behind The Italian Combo sandwich on our brunch menu was a Cubano sandwich, using Italian deli meats like soppressata as substitutes for pork in the original.

What is your favorite ingredient to work with right now?

To be honest, winter isn't my favorite food season but, one of my favorite winter vegetables is Tuscan Kale. I love that it has the dark green leaf-like kale but has more of a cabbage-meets-chard flavor. I like to braise it with lots of anchovies, chili, garlic, and onions and serve it with grilled meats, on toast with poached eggs, or tossed through pasta. At Dante, we serve it with our chicken parm.

What would be your requested last meal?

The restaurant group I worked for in Australia, Rockpool, has a brand of Bar and Grill restaurants, which I was lucky enough to work at for four years. My last meal would come entirely off the menu there: Rangers Valley grain-fed rib eye, cooked over wood fire to medium rare, served with fluffy bearnaise and mustard; potatoes cooked in wagyu fat with rosemary and garlic; Rockpool signature salad with palm sugar vinaigrette; and Black Forest dessert, a chocolate sponge cake and mousse with cherries, brandy, apricots, and mascarpone sabayon.

What is your favorite part about working in NYC's food industry?

When I first came to New York, I didn't expect the industry to be so vast. A couple of years passed before I could fully appreciate the intensity of it. Having been the chef at Dante for approaching two years, I think my favorite part is the competition. I feel so driven to succeed here, and I feel like this is the measure of my ability which makes it as challenging as it is exciting.

Bertha Gonzalez Nieves, CEO of Casa Dragones Tequila

Dubbed as The First Lady of Tequila by Los Angeles Times, Bertha Gonzalez Nieves is exactly that. After finding Casa Dragones Tequila in 2008, she has been widely recognized for her efforts in spearheading the brand into stardom, snatching accolade after accolade in the process from both insiders and press alike. Building off of the success of the Joven tequila, the brand, under her continued direction, debuted Casa Dragones Blanco in 2014 and shows no signs of slowing down.

How did you come up with Casa Dragones? Why?

I founded Tequila Casa Dragones with my partner Bob Pittman, founder of MTV and current CEO of iHeart Media. Our mission was to push the boundaries of what had been done before in the tequila industry and to create a true sipping tequila, unlike any other. We promised ourselves that if we couldn’t deliver on this vision, we’d abandon the project. We launched in 2009 with Casa Dragones Joven, a very rare style in tequila, made especially for sipping and pairing with food. Casa Dragones Joven is a master blend of 100 percent Blue Agave silver and extra aged tequila, rested in new American oak barrels for five years, for a very complex, yet very smooth taste and finish. Our vision is to continue to innovate within the tequila category and to be one of the producers shaping the future of the industry. The liquor industry is still very male-filled. 

Was it difficult for you to have your voice heard when you first started? 

I’ve always believed that it’s not about whether you are a man or a woman. It’s about having passion for what you do, building the right credentials, and keeping an entrepreneurial mindset. When I co-founded Casa Dragones with Bob, he wanted to work with me for my credentials and my knowledge of tequila. 

Do you have any advice for women in the industry? 

Just go for it! Be confident, creative and passionate. 

What’s your go-to cocktail to impress? 

Rather than in a cocktail, I serve Casa Dragones Joven neat, in a Riedel tequila glass or a champagne flute glass for sipping. When I serve, I often do so at meals, to give my guests an authentically Mexican experience of pairing tequila with food. We’re proud to have worked with some of the world's most respected chefs, including Thomas Keller, Eric Ripert, Enrique Olvera and more, to create unique pairings with Casa Dragones. 

What is your favorite part about working in the industry? 

Tequila has a relatively young appellation, compared to wines and scotches for example, which may have regulations in place for hundreds of years. So there is still so much innovation that can happen in the tequila industry. As a modern tequila company, we are excited to be one of the producers shaping the industry for the future, whether carving a space in the global luxury market or working with the Tequila Regulatory Council as they continue to explore more sustainable methods of production.

Karla Hernández, food blogger, cookbook author, and Fresh Fix consultant at Hard Rock Hotel Cancun and Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya

A Mexican-born graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, chef Karla Hernandez has been working to change the mindset surrounding all-inclusive resort food by working with Hard Rock Hotels to develop a healthier culinary experience with the recently launched Fresh Fix dining offering, now available at the Cancun and Riviera Maya location (with plans to expand to other properties). With a playful take (that we got to experience firsthand) on organic and locally sourced ingredients, Hernandez and Fresh Fix are dismantling down the stereotype that all-inclusive fare automatically means unhealthy.

Where does your interest in healthy food stem from?

I decided to switch gears and focus on healthy foods after several visits to the ER where I was diagnosed with more than 50 food intolerances and had to completely switch my diet from one day to the next. Since then, I have developed healthy menus for magazines, released my cookbook with 200 nutritious recipes, and developed more than 1,000 step-by-step recipes for my blog. 

How did you begin to partner with the Hard Rock Hotels in Mexico?

Since starting on this journey, my focus and priority have been health and wellness. I wanted to promote simple and healthy recipes given that the obesity rate in the U.S. and Mexico is really concerning. The all-inclusive Hard Rock Hotels shared my vision, so together we wanted to show that healthy food can be delicious, flavorful, and indulgent. We also wanted to cater all guests by offering gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, and low-calorie options.

Can you tell me about the Fresh Fix program?

Fresh Fix is a healthier culinary experience where we focus on fresh and locally sourced ingredients. We highlight the natural flavor of the ingredients, create lighter options, and add a healthy spin to some of our favorite dishes. So, if you want to stay healthy and on track while on vacation, we have you covered. 

What’s your best tip for staying healthy on all-inclusive vacation while still indulging?

It all comes down to portion sizes and staying active during your vacation. Whether it’s a morning or evening walk on the beach, some volleyball, swimming, or taking some of the classes that are offered throughout the day. When it comes to food, portion control is your best friend. Try to go for a healthy lunch and breakfast so you can indulge later at dinner and most important enjoy everything, after all, you are on vacation!

Susan Fine, principal at Turnstyle

With a surge of high-end courts taking over metropolitan cities, Susan Fine couldn't have found a better time to open Turnstyle, a bustling marketplace in Manhattan's Colombus Circle that features notable food vendors, lifestyle shops, and rotating events —many of which are female-run. While managing the renovation of the Grand Terminal 20 years ago, Fine found that there was a convenience that commuters found in being able to purchase items, whether a meal or an item, before boarding their trains home. The lightbulb moment truly happened when she saw the number of people, tourists, and New Yorkers frequenting Columbus Circle area, and Turnstyle was soon born.

Why are these type of food halls having such a moment in cities right now? 

We like the original, not mass-produced, items with a touch of heart. That is why we gravitate to markets and food halls—they surprise and entice in ways that the mass-produced just don't. 

You have a lot of wholly-female owned businesses at Turnstyle. Is that important to you? 

Retail is one of the ways where women can enter the workforce and achieve—TS has many small business owners. The demands of retail, which are not nine-to-five, are demands woman are used to. I like fostering women, but am proud of the way all vendors are thriving at Turnstyle. 

How do you envision the ideal day Turnstyle? 

The media in the neighborhood [CNN, Hearst etc.], the high school kids getting out of school, and ALL the tourists—the essence of the NYC subway experience—all mingling and shopping. Our Juilliard musicians or New York Transit buskers would perform, and Kit's Underground would host a wine tasting as she does weekly. And, my absolute favorite—if it is a special week—we would have Dog &Co. sponsor a doggie fashion show and pet adoption event. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten when first starting out? 

When I started out, we didn't really get advice. We started working—it was a badge of honor and assumed that you would work and succeed. I liked the line, "Always be a lady and always leave them laughing"—meaning, make sure everyone respects you as you come and go. In retrospect, the advice I would give is, trust your instincts. 

Sylvie Gabriele, owner of Love & Salt

An entrepreneur with two decades of experience, Sylvie Gabriele has made Love & Salt one of California's go-to destinations for Italian-inspired food. After first deciding to transform the space that previously housed Cafe Pierre for 37 years into Love & Salt, Gabriele took on the added responsibility for making Love & Salt continue to feel like home to the community that visited its predecessor for almost four decades before while attracting a new, more experimental crowd. She achieved that! Working closely with MASS Architecture and designer Ana Henton, Gabriele brought a new vision to the restaurant while staying loyal to the patronage and integrity of the former space.

How did you come up with the idea for the restaurant?

Love & Salt was born out of the desire to do something different—we [my father & I] had our original restaurant, Cafe Pierre, that was wonderful but we wanted to bring something new for our neighborhood, the South Bay. My dad started Cafe Pierre and I worked closely with him on that, but when it came time to change, it was clear that I would be the one to drive it and our new vision. My overarching goal with Love & Salt, and the idea that belied every decision we made in the design and ideation of the restaurant was to make it the kind of place that made all guests feel welcome.

What do you hope that customers can get out of visiting your restaurant?

I want each and every person that steps foot into our restaurant to feel at home and to be able to enjoy a delicious, deeply-satisfying meal, the kind that makes them leaves them discussing a return visit over dessert. Love & Salt is intentionally designed to mimic the overall look and feel of Manhattan Beach—there is a distinct relaxed beach vibe to our restaurant the helps put people at ease and sets the tone for a fun meal.

What is your favorite part about working in the industry?

My favorite part is being part of an industry that is all about people. That’s why, from a managerial perspective, "company culture” at Love & Salt is so important to me. I’ve made it my mission to create this positive and inspiring, people-first culture that communicates in language and action that people are valued. Working in the food industry is challenging but rewarding because I look at it through the lens of investing in people and seeing their lives change through the work we do. Love & Salt isn’t a for-profit business; rather, we’re in the business of growing our family. We’re in the business of growing family and creating a positive experience in people’s lives.

Death-row meal?

Burger—the kind that is just oozing with meat juice and cheese—with fries, followed by a big plate of our bone marrow pasta. Then two slices of our mushroom pizza, finished with a piece of dark chocolate cake with chocolate chips. No salad nor veggies in sight...

Kendra Scott, head distiller at Anchor Distilling Company

Having been with Anchor Distilling Company for the last 20 years, Kendra Scott has been part of one of the first waves of women to infiltrate the brewing and distilling industry, a notorious boy's club, and rise through its ranks. Having started as a tour guide in 1997, she made her way to the brewing side of Anchor's, where she spent eight getting to know beers, before joining the distilling team in 2005 as the second full-time distiller, where she remains to this day as the only female distiller and oversees spirits like Old Potrero Single Malt Rye and Junipero Gin. When distilling, Scott notably relies on all her senses—including sound when listening to the steam and machines—and is a big proponent for women entering the brewing and distilling fields.

How did you get into the distilling business?

I was living and working in Potrero Hill, the same neighborhood where Anchor Brewing and Distilling are located, bartending at The Bottom of the Hill, which was one of the very first accounts to pour Anchor Distillery’s Old Potrero 18th Century Rye Whiskey. I knew well before working for Anchor that Fritz Maytag was making a unique whiskey. At the time it was the only pot-distilled 100 percent rye whiskey made in America. Not only was the product rare, but the profession itself wasn’t common. There weren’t many craft distilleries, and I didn’t know of any woman distillers at that time. I knew I wanted to be part of Anchor because I wanted to be part of something special. 

The liquor industry is still very male-dominated. Was it a difficult journey to get where you're now?

Not really. Anchor Brewing and Distilling was like a family, and everyone was supportive. If you worked hard and were passionate about the products, opportunities became available. Although it was a very male-dominated industry, that’s quickly changing, and I love seeing more and more women in the industry making spirits. I think more women distillers allow for diverse perspectives and palettes contributing to the spirits industry. 

What's your favorite part about being in the industry?

I love that every day I get to work with my hands, utilize all of my senses, and be creative. We are constantly innovating and have an adorable nine-liter still, that’s really efficient and allows for us to experiment with new products. I love the spirits I produce and am proud to work at Anchor Distilling and Brewing for its rich history in both spirits and beer. In fact, Junipero Gin and Old Potrero just celebrated their 20th anniversaries last year. 

What's the best piece of professional advice you've gotten?

Fritz would tell the distilling team that when someone tastes a product, it doesn’t only have to taste good on the palette but it also has to taste good in the mind. That flavor alone does not make a good product; it's great flavor, in conjunction with the experience, environment, context, back story, quality, and perception, that make a good product. And that is so true.